Film #139: Holy Motors (2012)

holy-motorsDirector: Leos Carax
Language: French with some English and Chinese
Length: 111 minutes
Watched on: 1 Jan 2015

I had quite a movie-filled holiday this year: this was the second movie I watched on New Year’s Day, at my friend’s enthusiastic recommendation. He called it one of the most intelligent recent movies he’d watched. I’m not sure I’d be quite so gracious, but I certainly enjoyed it.

It’s French and has very self-conscious arthouse sensibilities. In the movie we follow around a guy in a limo, who is taken from place to place, whereby he has to dress up and act out a short scene, spurred by instructions from his mysterious employers.

The scenes are very diverse – they include the one pictured above, where he, as a dishevelled homeless man, disrupts a funeral and kidnaps a woman to take her down to his underground lair. The scene ends with the image of him lying there with an erection while his victim sits looking majestic in a veil. Then there’s a scene where he meets his twin (somehow) and they engage in bloody battle. Then somehow he meets up with Kylie Minogue, who looks nothing like she used to in the 90s, and apparently speaks French. It was almost like watching a compilation of short movies – I’m reminded of Paris, je t’aime, at least by setting if not by tone – but we also get to see the main character going between each role over the course of a day.

Trying to explain the movie is almost like a chore – it doesn’t really make sense. What I think, in my cynical way, happened, is that the filmmakers came up with several images or scenes first and then found a way to link them together. What especially made me think this is the way the film lingered on the image of the crazed homeless guy with his cock out, saying clearly that everything else in that scene had been a build-up to that.

I do also think it’s uncharitable to just think that, though. I think they’ve managed to create something that is reminiscent of even greater French works from la nouvelle vague and its ilk. I think they’ve managed to create something thought-provoking and not simple.

To illustrate that, on the one time we hear from the man’s employers, off-camera, they make reference to the man’s viewers – indeed, who are these viewers? Are we in some dystopian future, making comment about the voyeuristic nature of reality TV? Or are we ourselves the voyeurs, behind the proverbial fourth wall? There were also the parts in between the scenes, which blurred more and more into the main scenes too – it became very unclear where one finished and the next started off.

So it was nice to see something that had a bit of depth to it. While I didn’t quite agree that the movie was the most intelligent thing I’ve seen recently – I think it relied on shock value a little too much for my liking, for one thing – I think it would stand up to a repeat viewing (especially because I’ve gone and done the thing where I lag behind with my reviews and have forgotten many of the details), and I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in French arthouse cinema.

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One Response to Film #139: Holy Motors (2012)

  1. Pingback: Film #186: Hail, Caesar! (2016) | reuoq

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